The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Mild Cognitive Impairment

It is normal for individuals to show some decline in memory due to aging. This decline has been termed Age-associated Memory Impairment (AAMI), and typically affects memory for new information, such as the names of people you have recently met. People are diagnosed with AAMI if their memory decline is within the limits of what is considered "normal" for their age group.

When an individual's memory declines below the level considered normal for that age group, there may be a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). People with MCI show more severe memory lapses than would be expected for their age. Memory lapses indicative of MCI would include repeatedly missing appointments, telling the same joke over and over again, or forgetting the names of close colleagues. In other words, a diagnosis of MCI is made when a person's memory impairment begins to interfere with the activities of daily living.

Diagnosed with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer's disease

Recent research has suggested that about 12 percent of people aged 65 or older diagnosed with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer's disease within a year; about 40% develop Alzheimer's within three years. This is a much higher rate than in the general population: only about 1% of all healthy people over 65 develop Alzheimer's each year. Thus, people with MCI are considered at heightened risk to develop Alzheimer's disease.

The National Institute on Aging is currently conducting a large-scale clinical study to determine if the Alzheimer's drug donepezil and vitamin E are useful in delaying or preventing people with MCI from developing Alzheimer's.

Further Reading:

  • Forgetfulness in Old Age: It's Not What You Think. National Institute on Aging, 1993. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C.
  • Article : "CROSSING THE LINE"

by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain